Illinois Public Media News
Arthur Culver has resigned as the Champaign Unit 4 superintendent, and now the focus for the school district is finding his replacement.
Culver's last day will be June 30, 2011. He has served as Unit 4 superintendent for nearly a decade, and publically announced his intention to resign during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
"I really do think that I've run my race, and it's just time to pass that baton," Culver said, who took long pauses to regain his composure. "It's not right to continue to collect a paycheck knowing that I don't have that same passion and fire in the belly that I used to."
Culver said he first started thinking about moving on from the Champaign School District last summer. Just until this week, he was on the shortlist for the top job in the DeKalb County school system in Georgia, but withdrew his name as a finalist.
"When I look at the recent events surrounding that search, I just felt it was in my best interest to remove myself and withdraw," Culver said. "I'm sure at some point they will discover a great superintendent that will lead them through their troubled waters."
Culver wouldn't give specifics about other professional opportunities he is interested in pursuing, but didn't rule out staying in Champaign County.
Champaign School Board President Dave Tomlinson touted Culver's achievements during his tenure, including a successful end to the district's Consent Decree, bringing up achievement levels for students of all races, three years of having a budget surplus, and a high school graduation rate that went from just below 90-percent to nearly 96-percent.
Tomlinson said the search process for the next superintendent will begin as early as Thursday, April 28, and that an interim superintendent will be named by July 1st. Tomlinson said while there are currently six people within the school district who are qualified for the job, a national search will take place to find the next superintendent.
"We have no one in mind at this point," Tomlinson said. "That will be a process of an unknown length."
Culver said he will be part of the transition process. He added that he hopes the next superintendent makes cutting down on disciplinary problems among students a priority.
There will be a series of public forums in the coming months to gather community input about the search. Anyone interested in being part of the search team should send an e-mail with their interests and qualifications to U4BOE@ChampaignSchools.org.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
Almost half of African-American mothers in Illinois never breastfeed their newborns, according to a report by state and university researchers and a nonprofit group called HealthConnect One.
Among new black mothers in 2008, about 45 percent did not start breastfeeding their infants, according to the report, "Illinois Breastfeeding Blueprint: A Plan for Change." That figure compares to 21 percent for whites, 14 percent for Latinas and three percent for Asian-Americans.
The report also shows income disparities. The rate of low-income white mothers in the state who never started breastfeeding babies born in 2008 was 36 percent.
"Hospitals should be doing more to encourage breastfeeding," said University of Illinois at Chicago epidemiologist Deborah Rosenberg, who analyzed data for the report.
Looking at all new Illinois mothers, the report says the number who did start breastfeeding was almost 78 percent by 2008 - up about eight percent from 2000. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a national goal of almost 82 percent by 2020.
Starting breastfeeding does not mean keeping at it. Twelve weeks after giving birth, just 47 percent of Illinois mothers were breastfeeding, according to the report. Of those, almost half were not breastfeeding exclusively.
"Many women go back to work then," Rosenberg said. "It means that employers need to be supportive of breastfeeding."
Rosenberg said resources for lactation consultants and peer counselors are also falling short.
HealthConnect One, based in Chicago, published the report Monday in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Human Services and the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health.
Next month the group and its partners plan to begin formulating a five-year action plan for hospitals, government agencies, employers, insurers and community groups.
Federal health officials say breastfeeding helps babies avoid obesity, infections and chronic diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
The far southern Illinois city of Cairo is giving residents the option of voluntarily leaving as the Ohio River continues to rise.
Police dispatcher Cheryl James says, as of Tuesday morning, eight families have notified police that they're clearing out. Alexander County Emergency Management Coordinator Marty Nicholson says Cairo's levee and flood wall are holding their own against a river that's expected to reach a record 61 feet on May 3. Nicholson says the concrete flood wall at Cairo can hold back water levels up to 64 feet. On Tuesday, the river already had topped 56 feet.
The Mississippi River is also the center of attention for emergency officials. Already, St. Clair, Madison, Bond, Clinton, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties in Illinois are under a flash flood watch.
Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello and Republican Rep John Shimkus met Monday with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois Emergency Management Agency officials.
Afterward, the lawmakers said they encouraged the corps and IEMA to work closely with local officials in coordinating plans to deal with flooding.
According to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., a storm system that blew through northeast Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas on Monday will likely move into Illinois on Tuesday. It is expected to cause substantial flooding in a corridor that runs from Illinois to Arkansas.
New White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley is the speaker for the University of Illinois' 140th commencement ceremonies next month.
The longtime executive with JP Morgan Chase & Co. also served as president of SBC Communications from 2001 to 2004.
He was a campaign manager for Al Gore's presidential run in 2000, and was Secretary of Commerce from 1997 to 2000, overseeing a department of more than 40,000 people. He was Special Counsel to President Clinton in 1993, focusing on international trade issues. Daley served as a lawyer early in his career, and has served on the boards of several corporate, academic, medical, charitable, and civic organizations.
The Chicago native is brother to the city's outgoing mayor, Richard M. Daley. He is married to Bernadette Keller. William Daley will deliver his commencement speech at the 10:30 and 2 p.m. ceremonies at Assembly Hall on May 15th.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Champaign school officials are expected to release more information Tuesday afternoon on a personnel agreement reached with an unnamed employee.
It's not known whether Monday night's seven-to-nothing vote involves Superintendent Arthur Culver, who's now the lone finalist for a superintendent's job in Georgia. The action was taken Monday night following a 40-minute closed session in a special meeting to discuss personnel.
Unit 4 school board president Dave Tomlinson declined comment on Culver's status, as well as what's happening with the superintendent's search at the DeKalb County School District in suburban Atlanta.
"It's inappropriate for us to comment on anything about what's going on in Georgia," said Tomlinson. "We don't know - I don't know anything about what's going on in Georgia, so it's inappropriate for that."
Unit 4's press conference is set for Tuesday at 3-30 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center. Meanwhile, the DeKalb County School board is holding its own closed-door meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the next steps in its superintendent search. Culver became the remaining finalist for superintendent after Lillie Cox, a superintendent from Hickory, North Carolina, withdrew her name from consideration over the weekend. Exposure of details in those negotiations reportedly played a part in her withdrawal.
But a spokesman for the district says it's unclear what direction the board will take, despite Culver being the lone finalist. Jeff Dickerson speculates the board could hire Culver, choose to look at prior candidates, or start its superintendent's search over from scratch.
DeKalb County's School Board President, Tom Bowen, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there's a chance Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson could be asked to apply for the permanent position. But Dickerson says she hasn't asked to be considered, nor has she been approached about the job at this point.
Champaign Unit 4 Superintendent Arthur Culver is now the lone finalist under consideration to lead a school district in suburban Atlanta.
But it's still not clear what direction the DeKalb County School Board will go. Culver became the remaining finalist for superintendent after Lillie Cox, a superintendent from Hickory, North Carolina, withdrew her name from consideration over the weekend. Exposure of details in those negotiations reportedly played a part in her withdrawal.
But School District Spokesman Jeff Dickerson says there is still any number of possibilities at this point.
"The board could look at the one remaining candidate, it could expand the pool with others who were considered who maybe came in the number 4 or number 5 spot, so that they can expand the pool. or it's possible that they could start all over," he said. "But again, all of that is speculation. I have no idea what the board is likely to do at this juncture."
DeKalb County School Board President Tom Bowen told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there's a chance Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson could be asked to apply for the permanent position. But Dickerson says she hasn't asked to be considered, nor has she been approached about it at this point.
A third finalist, Decatur School Superintendent Gloria Davis, withdrew her name from consideration earlier this month. The DeKalb County School Board met in executive session Monday morning, and plans to hold another meeting Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, the Champaign Unit 4 School Board has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Monday. It's a rescheduled meeting from last week, with unspecified personnel matters on the agenda.
A bill linking teacher pay with student performance has won final legislative approval and now heads to Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature.
The Senate voted 36-13 for the merit pay bill, which is part of Daniels' expansive education agenda. Under the bill, teachers would be evaluated annually. Only those in the top two of four categories would be eligible for certain pay raises. Local districts would create their own evaluations, but would have to include objective measures of student achievement, such as test scores.
Districts wouldn't be able to place a student for two years in a row with teachers rated in the lowest category without notifying parents.
Supporters say it's right to reward the best teachers, while opponents say teachers aren't in the profession for the money.
The judge and attorneys in Rod Blagojevich's corruption retrial on Monday were set to resume the daunting task of selecting jurors who can put aside what they've heard about the high-profile case and give the former Illinois governor a fair trial.
Judge James Zagel was expected to individually question up to 40 more people out of a pool of more than 100 potential jurors to assess their suitability. Each filled out a 38-page jury questionnaire as the retrial started last week.
The impeached governor's first trial ended last year with jurors deadlocked on all but one count of lying to the FBI. At the retrial, the 54-year-old still faces 20 charges, including accusations he sought to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's old U.S. Senate seat for campaign cash or a top job.
The first day of individual questioning of would-be jurors on Thursday revealed most either held unfavorable views of politicians in general or of Blagojevich in particular. All had heard at least something about last year's trial.
Zagel spoke to 22 potential jurors Thursday and, by day's end, dismissed 11 on various grounds, including that weeks of jury duty would hit their families hard financially.
But he refused defense requests to send home several people who seemed biased against Blagojevich, including a retired auto shop owner who wrote that, "Based on news accounts, my personal bias is - he is guilty." Zagel said he accepted the man's assurances in court that he could set aside his preconceptions and focus solely on the evidence.
Those kept in the jury pool won't necessarily end up in the jury box because both sides retain the right to dismiss some jurors without providing the judge a reason. The defense can do so 13 times while the prosecution has nine peremptory challenges.
Jury selection is an inexact science. Blagojevich lawyers may in some cases prefer jurors with a dim view of politicians if it means they're more likely to accept a long-held defense argument: that the twice-elected governor was merely engaged in wheeling and dealing that - while sometimes unseemly - is legal and par for the course in politics.
Blagojevich himself has seemed closely involved scrutinizing potential panelists, scribbling notes on a yellow pad as would-be jurors answered questions. His wife, Patti, also has taken detailed notes sitting on a nearby spectators' bench.
Those still in the jury pool include a former state prosecutor, a substitute teacher who said she didn't like her job and a recently retired maintenance man who told the court how he once saved up $1,500 to pay to drive a Formula One racecar 177 mph.
Another person Zagel refused to dismiss was a man convicted of assault and battery who had to attend an anger-management course as part of his sentence. The man, holding a microphone as he answered the judge's questions, hesitated when Zagel asked if those courses had helped.
"You didn't stand up and throw the mic at me, so it helped a little," Zagel said, smiling.
Zagel has said he wants to have 12 jurors and several alternates impaneled by Wednesday, meaning opening arguments could start that day or Thursday. The retrial is not expected to last as long as the first 2 1/2-month trial, in part because prosecutors have streamlined their case by dropping complex racketeering charges.
(Photo by Robert Wildeboer/IPR)
Synthetic marijuana known as spice or K2 would be banned under a bill that is close to gaining approval in the Indiana Legislature.
The state Senate is scheduled on Monday to consider final passage of the bill, which would treat possessing or dealing synthetic marijuana the same as the real drug. The House earlier unanimously approved the bill that lists 25 chemical compounds used to make the substance often sold as incense.
Several Indiana counties have local ordinances banning the substance from stores, but supporters say a state law criminalizing it is needed. Health officials and police have urged lawmakers to ban it because of adverse reactions such as increased heart rate and hallucinations.
If the Senate approves the bill, it would go to the governor for consideration.
The Champaign County nursing home will begin repaying a $330,000 loan that it received from the county a few years ago.
The County Board unanimously approved a plan Thursday night requiring the nursing home to make monthly payments of $1,000 a month into its general revenue fund. County Board member Jan Anderson sits on the nursing home board, and she said the repayment plan may seem like a modest amount. But she said "it shows good faith in wanting to repay" the loan given the nursing home's current financial state.
Champaign County Board Member Alan Nudo is also part of the county's nursing home board. He said since the loan was given out, the nursing home has made a profit and seen an uptick in occupancy.
"The likelihood of us going back to the county for another loan is slight at this time, but you can't predict the future," Nudo said.
Nudo said the nursing home will start repaying the loan by the beginning of May or June.
In about a year, the Champaign County Board will review the repayment plan to determine if the $1,000 a month rate should be increased. But nursing home administrator Andrew Buffenbarger said he is not sure when the center will be in a position to pay a higher monthly fee.
"We'll just continue to evaluate it as time goes on," Buffenbarger said. "It's one of those things that we would like to get retired just as soon as possible, but naturally have to consider the needs of the home."
Buffenbarger said the nursing home is also paying off a $4 million construction loan.
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